Ex NY Fair Director Accused

Former New York State Fair director Peter Cappuccilli “treated state coffers like his own,” diverting $78,000 for personal use while the fair misspent nearly $1 million under his watch, N.Y. Inspector General Joseph Fisch reported Aug. 3.

The findings are to be forwarded to state attorney general Andrew Cuomo for possible criminal charges.

The 138-page report is the culmination of a two-year investigation that found no-bid contract abuse, more than $829,000 in payroll hires of friends and relatives, and distribution of $720,000 in free tickets to politicians.

Fisch’s report alleges that Cappuccilli wielded “unchecked control” over the Fair from 1995 to 2005, “and repeatedly abused his position for personal gain.”

“Mr. Cappuccilli treated state coffers like his own, then falsified or discarded invoices to cover his misdeeds,” Fisch said. “This was flagrant, chronic abuse.”

The Inspector General also accuses State Fair and N.Y. Department of Agriculture and Markets officials of violating finance law, designed to protect public funds, by entering no-bid contracts with Live Nation in 2008 and Classic Entertainment and Sports in 2009.

Fisch reports “the State Fair’s ‘emergency’ need to award a $600,000 no-bid contract with Live Nation to book music acts for the 2008 Fair was self-created by Fair and Agriculture and Markets executives and could have been avoided by proper planning,” according to the report. The fair reportedly saved $500,000 the following year when it sought competitive bids on the music contract.

He also accuses former state fair marketing director Joseph LaGuardia of giving away more than $280,000 in alleged concert “reviewer” tickets to friends and family. Over eight years, state police received some $200,000 in free tickets and from 2006-08, fair employees were allegedly given more than $240,000 in freebies.

Cappuccilli allegedly spent more than $73,000 of taxpayer funds on two of his daughters’ weddings, used fair employees to do landscaping and other site preparation for the weddings and either canceled or blocked adjacent rentals, including a country music concert, so the grounds would be quiet for the ceremonies – causing lost revenues of $61,000.

Cappuccilli allegedly “engaged in nepotism and cronyism” by paying more than $830,000 in salaries to family and friends – including $200,000 to one friend for what appeared to be “a no-show job.” Fisch alleges that more than 40 relatives of Fair employees were also hired from 1995-2006.

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker thanked Fisch for the report, and spelled out steps taken to improve operations and procurement policies, including the vendor contracts and ticket distribution.

“We acknowledge our lack of internal communication and accept responsibility for the procurement missteps in the handling of the Live Nation and Fight Night contracts,” Hooker said.

“However, as pointed out in the report, at no time were our decisions malicious or self-serving … [We] have already begun to implement new checks and balances to ensure that our procurement process is fair and transparent.”